Collective Intentionality

In Lee McIntyre & Alex Rosenberg (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Social Science. New York: Routledge. pp. 214-227 (2016)
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In this chapter, we focus on collective action and intention, and their relation to conventions, status functions, norms, institutions, and shared attitudes more generally. Collective action and shared intention play a foundational role in our understanding of the social. The three central questions in the study of collective intentionality are: (1) What is the ontology of collective intentionality? In particular, are groups per se intentional agents, as opposed to just their individual members? (2) What is the psychology of collective intentionality? Do groups per se have psychological states, in particular propositional attitudes? What is the psychology of the individuals who participate in collective intentional behavior? What is special about their participatory intentions, their we-intentions, as they are called (Tuomela and Miller 1988), as opposed to their I-intentions? (3) How is collective intentionality implicated in the construction of social reality? In particular, how does the content of we-intentions and the intentional activity of individual agents create social institutions, practices and structures? We first discuss collective action and shared intention in informal groups. Next we discuss mechanisms for constructing institutional structures out of the conceptual and psychological resources made available by our understanding of informal joint intentional action. Then we extend the discussion of collective action and intention to institutional groups, such as the Supreme Court, and explain how concepts of such organizations are constructed out of the concepts of a rule, convention, and status function. Finally we discuss collective attitudes beyond intention.
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